Two Australian researches have won the prestigious GSK Award for Research Excellence.
Professors Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer have received $80,000 to continue their ground breaking research (as comedical directors of Melanoma Institute Australia and world leaders in melanoma research) that has tripled life expectancy for some advanced melanoma patients and transformed how the cancer is diagnosed and managed worldwide.
Australia has one of the highest incidence rates of melanoma in the world, with an estimated 14,000 cases diagnosed
every year; while most people with melanoma can be successfully treated through surgery if it is detected early, more than 1,900 Australians die from the cancer each year.
According to the researchers, advancing novel treatments like targeted therapies (which modify the actions of Specific genes to stop the growth and spread of cancer) and immunotherapies (which uses the body’s immune system to fight cancer), could mean no deaths from melanoma within a generation.
The delivery of individualised immunotherapy according to response, has the potential to improve survival in both early and advanced stage melanoma patients and could essentially turn the cancer into a chronic condition. Professor Long said Immuno-oncology is the “penicillin moment” for cancer therapy.
“We’ve discovered how to leverage the relationship melanoma has with the immune system to allow a patient’s immune system to kill the cancer cells,” she said.
“This means we are moving towards melanoma no longer being a possible death sentence, but rather a treatable, chronic condition.
“While we have these remarkable drugs, however, there are still a group of patients who are resistant.”